Land Acquisition Program
The City of Boulder owns and manages more than 45,000 acres of Open Space and Mountain Parks land in and around Boulder, Colorado. The very first piece of land, 80 acres at the base of Flagstaff Mountain, was purchased by the city in 1898 to be used as one in a series of Chautauqua cultural centers around the country. Since then, the Open Space program (established in 1967) has acquired over 400 separate properties. Acquisitions Over Time is an animated map series that shows the land purchases over time. You'll note that many of the current acquisitions are not as large as in the early days of the program; however, each piece of property serves as a critical connection to the existing systems and fulfills the purposes of the City of Boulder Charter section on Open Space.
In addition to land acquisitions, the Open Space program aquires water rights to help support agricultural operations and preserve historical water rights. Without water rights acquisitions, much of this water would be diverted away from local food production. Approximately 6,000 acres of open space land are irrigated with these water rights.
Whenever possible, mineral rights are also acquired during the land acquisition process.
How Are Decisions Made Regarding Acquisitions?
The Open Space and Mountain Parks division acquires properties based on the Open Space Acquisitions and Management Plan 2013 - 2019, adopted by the Boulder City Council in 2013. Recommendations for acquisitions are approved by the Open Space Board of Trustees and Boulder City Council pursuant to the City of Boulder Charter, Article XII, Open Space.
There are a number of methods used to acquire properties that become part of the Open Space and Mountain Parks program. Property purchases are the most often used method to acquire property. These fee interest acquisitions are based on fair market value. Other methods of acquisition used include bargain and sale agreements involving a donation of land as one of the components; the purchase of conservation easements whereby the fee interest is retained by the property owner and the owner has agreed to permanently limit their use of the land to protect its conservation values; and sometimes the city will purchase an interest in property that is less than the total interest. The city also considers and accepts donations of land, as well as conservation easements, based on the location and proximity to existing city owned lands as well as open space resource values.
The city has also partnered with other agencies, most notably Boulder County, on joint acquisitions.
The Open Space and Mountain Parks program is about 92 percent funded by sales and use tax dollars. 0.88 cents of every dollar spent on retail products in the City of Boulder helps support the continued acquisition of Open Space and Mountain Parks lands; protecting the land from development and preserving it for future generations. Approximately half of this revenue is set to expire by 2019.
Interested in selling or donating property?
If you, or someone you know, are interested in selling or donating a property or Conservation Easement to the Open Space and Mountain Parks program, or if you would like more information on the acquisition program, please call the OSMP office at 303-441-3440, or submit a comment online.
The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department preserves and protects the natural environment and land resources that characterize Boulder. We foster appreciation and use that sustain the natural values of the land for current and future generations.